Schools support heart machine campaign in teen's memory

10:12am Tuesday 28th January 2014

SCHOOLS have given their support to our campaign to get defibrillators in every secondary school in Gwent.

The parents of Oakdale teenager Jack Thomas have been campaigning to raise awareness of underlying heart conditions following the sudden death of their beloved 15-year-old son in February 2012.

Jack, who and had no previous health issues, was watching a rugby match at his girlfriend’s house in Newbridge when he suddenly began feeling unwell. An inquest at Gwent Coroner’s Court, sitting in Newport last year, ruled the teenager died of natural causes, leaving his mother, June, and her husband, Grant, searching for answers.

The Argus is now joining forces with the family to help secure money to ensure defibrillators are available to all schools in the area. Each defibrillator would cost about £1,000 to install.

Oakdale Comprehensive School was presented with a defibrillator from Jack’s family in October of last year.

Head teacher Chris David said he thought it would be good if other schools got them too. He said: “I think it’s a good idea and staff should be trained how to use them.

“It could save lives.”

A defibrillator is a portable device which works by delivering an electric shock to a casualty in a cardiac arrest to return the heart to a normal rhythm.

John Kendall, head teacher at Risca Comprehensive School, said: “It’s an excellent idea. How could anybody not think so? It’s something we are keen to support. I saw it on the front page and the pupils were talking about it.”

Mr Kendall said the idea would be discussed with the school council who decide on fundraising schemes.

Head teacher at Blackwood Comprehensive School Ravi Pawar said: “I would be very supportive of anything to prevent unnecessary deaths in school. But obviously we would need to have training to use a defibrillator.”

At least 12 young people die suddenly each week in the UK from underlying heart conditions.

A charity has since been set up in Jack’s memory, called CRY in the Valleys: Jack Thomas Memorial Fund held with Cardiac Risk in the Young, and has already raised £23,000 towards getting heart screenings in schools.

Alison Cox, chief executive and founder of CRY, said: “I find it humbling that despite their own terrible experience, bereaved parents such as June and Grant Thomas, somehow manage to find the strength to support us.”

To donate, send cheques payable to Welsh Hearts, to Temple Court, 13a Cathedral Road, Cardiff, CF11 9HA or to South Wales Argus, Cardiff Road, Newport, NP20 3QN.

Put reference “Jack Thomas defibs appeal” on the back of the envelope.

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